Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

Bussleton jetty

Cape Vale winery

Cape Vale winery

Tuart forest


ready to be picked

Bunbury is a cute little seaside resort with a mixture of nature preserves, outdoor recreation, and lovely homes where geezers have come to enjoy their retirement years. It has strong ties to the northeastern US. Many of the ships that chased the whales across the Pacific ended up in this area.

Since so much of interior Australia is hot, arid and pretty much uninhabitable, the nice spots along the seacoast suffer from the same conflicts between development and preservation that we hear about at home. Today’s tour started in the Tuart forest, a small section of old growth eucalyptus trees that have escaped the ax so far. Our guide was Irish and radiated enthusiasm for his adopted country. There’s something to be said for choosing the country where you live rather than settling for where you first land. He has spent a great deal of time trying to learn about the natural world from the aboriginals who lived here since the beginning and we went through the woods tasting sap and leaves. Many plants in Australia are found nowhere else and many of those have become extinct as land has been cultivated and the ecology altered. We smelled the leaves of the smoke bush, which has showed promise as a cure for AIDS. Our guide knew bird calls and “talked” to the parrots high up in the trees who made a terrible racket.

Then we went to a vineyard for tasting and a delicious lunch. Since we started wine tasting in New Zealand last month, we have had a variety of experiences. The Cape Vale Winery was remarkably generous and poured and poured from among the thirty plus wines they make until we had had enough. It’s a pity we don’t live in Australia; they would have sold us a case and shipped it home for free. It’s fall here now and almost all the grapes have been harvested to begin next year’s vintage. There’s been a glut of grapes the last few years and wine prices have fallen drastically, so the vintners have cut back to bring prices back up. Too bad. Once again we are surprised that we could buy Aussie wines so much more cheaply at home than we could here at the cellar door.

Then we headed to Busselton, another seaside town whose claim to fame is a jetty two kilometers long. It was built to provide a platform for loading boats back in the day. Because of its great length, the community has worked hard to keep the jetty in good shape even after it was damaged greatly by a cyclone. They are very excited at the moment because the people from the Guinness Book of World Records are here to determine if it is the longest jetty in the world. Whatever floats your boat so to speak.

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